Turkey Tryouts

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Published on: Feb. 18, 2014

a spring turkey is no easy feat; make sure you are pre-pared long before the first gobble on opening day.

Proper Patterning

  • Stay Safe: Keep safety in mind; make sure the muzzle of your firearm is pointed in a safe direction at all times and wear eye and ear protection.
  • Locate a range: Consider patterning your shotgun at a Missouri Department of Conservation range, visit for more information. After locating a range, ensure you have an adequate and safe backstop to shoot at and place a 4-foot by 4-foot piece of paper on a target holder. Place a turkey head target in the center of the paper for an aiming point (download one at

Choose your distance: After placing your target, back up to your desired distance. The distance you should shoot at a turkey depends on your shooting skill and the limitations of your ammunition. Smaller shot sizes may have a large shot charge, but do not carry as much kinetic energy as larger pellets. Larger pellets carry more energy, but due to the size, have a smaller shot charge in the shell. At a maximum, shots should be restricted to 40 yards or less.

  • Test your ammunition: Remove three shotshells from your box of ammunition, load one, and set the other two aside. Aim at the wattles on the turkey head target and take one shot. Retrieve your target, put up a new piece of 4-foot by 4-foot paper and a new turkey head target in the center. Repeat this process using the other two shotshells.
  • Evaluate your pattern: Determine the richest portion of the pattern on the paper and draw a 30-inch circle around the shot pattern (a pencil with a 15-inch piece of string works well). If the richest portion of the pattern is not located near the wattles of the turkey head target, verify the aiming point of your shotgun by conducting point of impact testing using a shooting bench. Count the number of pellet holes inside the 30-inch circle on each piece of paper, add them together, and divide by three. To lethally harvest a turkey you will need a minimum of 230 pellets inside a 30-inch circle. These 230 pellets must also contain enough energy at the distance you are shooting.
  • Make changes: If needed, make changes to your choke, distance, or ammunition to ensure that the recommended minimums to cleanly harvest a turkey are met.
  • Repeat the process: Pattern your shotgun if you change firearms, chokes, distance from the target, or ammunition (shell length, shot charge, powder charge, etc.). Keep a detailed logbook of patterning sessions and results for future reference.

Practice subtending

Subtending enables hunters to accurately judge how far away a turkey is by the size of its head or body relative to an object on their hunting equipment (shotgun bead, barrel, receiver, bow sight, etc.). This is very effective for turkey hunting, and it can ensure shots are taken at gobblers within your effective range, thus reducing wounding loss of turkeys.

Subtending Steps

  1. Compare your gun or bow to a life-size turkey (most decoys work well) at your effective range. Draw a picture of the amount that is covered up.
  2. Draw a picture of the amount that is covered up outside of your effective range.
  3. Practice and get a mental picture of the difference.
  4. When hunting, use the same comparison you used before season, positively identify a legal turkey that is within range of your equipment, and ensure the shot is safe.

Turkey Hunting Gear Checklist

Equipment Essentials

  • Turkey hunting permit
  • Shotgun or archery equipment (including shotshells, arrows, etc.)
  • Camouflage clothing (head to toe; facemask, gloves, etc.)
  • Orange hat or vest (wear when moving)
  • Turkey call(s)
  • Seat cushion
  • Food and drink
  • Cell phone or radio for emergency
  • First aid kit

Equipment Extras

  • Turkey hunting vest
  • Decoys, various types of turkey calls (air blown and friction)
  • Locator calls
  • Binoculars
  • Rangefinder
  • Saw/pruner
  • Turkey hunting blind
  • Rain gear
  • Orange bag to transport turkey

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